7 August 2018

Liberia Needs 'Objective Judiciary, Not Political' - UN Human Rights Office

Monrovia — The Country Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner on Human rights (OHCHR), Uchenna Emelonye has called for an independent and objective judicial system and not the kind mired with politics.

His comments come amid ongoing Impeachment proceedings hanging over one of Liberia's Associate Justices Kabineh Ja'neh of the Supreme Court. Some members of the House of Representatives have recently been pushing for the impeachment of Justice Ja'neh.

But Emelonye said, "Liberia does not need a political judiciary rather an independent and reliable and objective body that will always dispense justice impartially."

The UN Human Right boss said although he respects the laws of Liberia, he is speaking on grounds of international standard which calls for the judiciary not to be influenced by any arm of government.

Speaking at the opening of a one and half day business and human rights roundtable dialogue in Monrovia, the UN envoy indicated that it is key for Liberia as a country to have an exclusive independent judiciary system that will work in the interest of all void of intimidation and or political distraction.

He noted that that the Judiciary needs to be protected to the extent that any complaint from that body should be heard by a judicial oversight body.

He said it is about time that members of the judiciary especially those on the Supreme Court bench are protected, though they too are not above the law.

"The Chief Justice is not above the law, the Justices of the Supreme Court are not above the law; the judiciary needs an internal hearing body that will look into a matter within the judiciary and not the legislature," he said.

The judiciary has a Judiciary Inquiry Commission responsible to investigate matter like in the case of Associate Justice Ja'neh though there is no historical record of an Associate Justice appearing before that body, unlike Dr. Marcus Jones case in 2010.

Mr. Emelonye said, in a bid to help further strength the judiciary arm of government which is crucial to good democratic tenants as well as human rights promotion and protection, it is imperative that all actors work in the supreme interest of the people void of interference.

The OHCHR boss then praised the government for showing its political will and courage to accept the establishment of the OHCHR in Liberia for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Country.

He said the OHCHR is and will remain a voice that will hold accountable the feet of the government to the fire to ensure human rights promotion and protection.

"We have come with added value to help provide legal and capacity building assistance to all relevant organizations as well as institutions of government," he noted.

In a rather tough tone, the UN Human Right boss stressed OHCHR will speak truth to the government.

"Government should expect that we will speak on what they need to hear and not what they want to hear; we expect government to set up a framework that will promote the rights of humans," he said.

He, however, stated that as part of the OHCHR activities they will work with the Independent National Commission on Human Rights on critical national human rights issues, which he added needs to be addressed for the benefit of the people.

Over the next three years, OHCHR plans to build the capacity of civil society organizations, members of the national legislature including other key sectors to promote and protect human rights issues in the country.

Mr. Emelonye has however challenged the government to adopt policies including a legal instrument that will benefit the population.

He warned national actors not to develop a policy that will further affect the livelihood of the poor people as well as widen the already huge gap between the rich and the poor.

Currently, there is not an available national framework on Business and Human Rights in Liberia but the OHCHR boss expects that said crucial document can be put in place by the government.

Liberia is a signatory to the Business and Human Rights index and the government is said to be working in such direction, however, the Human Right expert observed that more needs to be done.

According to him, his office is constructively campaigning on those things that the Liberian government agreed to in a bid to promote and protect Human Rights issues in Liberia.

He also encouraged civil society actors to remind government about going beyond the bigger picture of society - profit and technology issues in Business - and take into consideration human rights violations associated with these issues.

He praised the business community for its vital role in rebuilding the country but was quick to mention that they are doing some unintended harm mainly in the business and human right sector, which he added needs to be addressed for the benefit of the people in general.

In a drive to effectively engage the government in such direction, Mr. Emelonye called on Civil Society actors to now build a very strong antenna to challenge government and hold them accountable on issues of human rights and other national issues.

At the end of the two days, session participants along with the relevant authorities of government will identify a workable framework to promote and protect business and human right related issues across the country.


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